My New Twitter Project

As part of a social media marketing experiment, I will not be sharing posts from Jims Marketing Blog via Twitter for the next 5 days.  If you want to keep up with the content here on the blog, and you currently use Twitter to do so, please use the Free Updates box on the right or subscribe to my RSS feed, using the link in the header.

twitterI will still be using Twitter just as regularly, (I love Twitter) but with Twitter click through’s as low as they are (just 2% of my traffic comes from Twitter and Twitter apps combined) I’m going to monitor what difference it makes by not tweeting this blog’s posts.  I am hoping the difference will be marginal, as I am starting to get really bored watching people ReTweeting their own posts and I am sure others feel exactly the same.

It’s only this blog’s content that I will not be sharing.  I’ve always much preferred using twitter to listen and learn from others.  Obviously, if you find something here which you want to share with your friends on Twitter, please do so.

I will let you know what my results are as soon as I have enough information; which I believe will be around 5 days time.

Let’s work together and grow your business. To find out more click here!

Why people fall for blindingly obvious “get rich quick” scams

One of the most common questions I see people asking online, is why do some people fall for those scam ebooks, which promise to make them rich?  They are clearly bullshit, so how come people buy them?

There are 2 reasons these books sell, even though they are obviously bogus.

1. They are not aimed at you

Those ebooks are designed to convince people, who are a lot less savvy than you.  People like you don’t buy those books, because you can see through the BS.  However, like all successfully marketed products, those get rich quick books have their marketing designed to appeal to a niche, target market.  Their target market is people who are desperate and ill-informed.  Thus, their marketing message is designed for people like them, not people like you, which is why you can see right through it.

2. They offer hope

Those books offer hope, albeit false hope, to people who are often in hopeless situations.  When people have debts, with no sign of money on the horizon and a family to look after, they will often act irrationally.  In an effort to find a way out, a $30 ebook promising to make them rich or give them a few grand a month, is suddenly an option that they will consider.

Once they are in that frame of mind, there’s a very good chance they will buy the book.  They see the fake testimonials and fake bank statements and actually want to believe them.  At that point, they are looking for reasons to proceed, so that’s what they see.  They need hope and the ebook offers it to them.

It’s easy to be harsh on people who waste their money on these scams, but sadly there are a lot of people out there right now looking for a way out of debt and financial hardship.  Being broke is bad enough, but the feeling of being broke and knowing you just wasted another $30 on a scam must feel awful.

The best we can do, is share some free education (like this post) and hope it helps people think a little harder, before they part with their money for crap, at a point when they can least afford to.

Let’s work together and grow your business. To find out more click here!

Photo: Ivanpw

Quick blog update regarding my HTC post

htc customer serviceI wrote a post on Wednesday about the poor customer service experience I had with phone manufacturer, HTC.  In the post, I promised that I would update you and let you know if HTC responded or not.

Despite that post making it to the first page of Google, for anyone in the UK searching for HTC customer service, and me pinging / tracking back to their website from the post, no one from HTC has been in touch.

As the core issue I had with them was directly related to the way they communicated with me online, it’s not that surprising that they either don’t monitor mentions of their brand online, or that they simply chose not to communicate.

Thanks to everyone who responded to me, both on that post and via social media, about the wider topic of the value of good customer service.  It’s great that something positive has come from such a disappointing experience.

Let’s work together and grow your business. To find out more click here!

Lessons from a lavish wedding and a bad marriage

A guy called me once and asked:

“Jim, we want to market our new service with a huge launch event.  Can you help us?”

I answered:

“I think what you want is to successfully market your new service?  I can certainly help with that, but to simply build a huge launch event would be a waste of your money and my time.”

Like many business owners, he was looking for the right answer to the wrong question.  He was focused on making the launch as big and attention grabbing as possible, rather than looking at how his new service could be marketed as successfully as possible.  He had sidelined an amazing 60% of his annual marketing budget, for the 24 hour launch period.  That’s not a wise move!

Why?

Because the success of his business will not be determined by how much money he spends on the launch day.  Whilst the coverage he could buy with that money might make him feel better, as Seth Godin explained, it’s not necessary.  Blowing all that money on day one is extremely unlikely to have any lasting impact on his business whatsoever; other than robbing it of essential funds during it’s toughest year.

When I explain this process to people, I often compare it to a lavish wedding!

A good lesson from a bad marriage

Think about it: Many failed marriages start off with an enormous, extravagant wedding day.  However, it’s not the big day, which determines the success of the marriage or now.  A marriage succeeds or fails based on what happens AFTER the confetti has been swept up and everyone has gone home.  Business is just the same.  It’s what happens on a day to day basis that will determine its future.

Certainly, it’s a good idea to celebrate the launch of a new project and ask people you respect if they want to join in and share the news.  But to blow so much money on that one day, makes little sense.

Let’s work together and grow your business. To find out more click here!

 

Photo: Ericlbc

You can count on these to help you succeed

If you want to make real progress with your business, you need to know where you are right now in all the key areas.  This means studying the numbers.  The challenge here, is that whilst many of us know what the numbers behind our business are, we don’t always know what they represent in real terms.

We need to add context to the numbers if we want to benefit from what they are telling us.

2 is a small number, sometimes!

I remember hearing a friend tell me that there were only 2 things that she didn’t like about her job.  When you think about it, that sounds pretty impressive.  After all, there are hundreds of elements to a job, right?

She then told me what those 2 things were and it painted a very different picture.  The 2 things she didn’t like were:

  1. The people she worked with
  2. The company’s products

Numbers need context

Small business owners often obsess about their numbers, without focusing on the context and what the numbers actually mean to them.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about.  I’ve often heard people brag about the Google Page Rank of their company website or blog, without looking to see what that Page Rank number actually means for their business, in real terms.  For instance, a high Page Rank, on a site with a poorly targeted readership, who seldom make business inquiries, is nothing to brag about.  It’s actually a problem in urgent need of fixing.

Similarly, a business owner with a large social network may have the numbers to impress people, yet get little real value from their thousands of followers and friends.  If they focus on the numbers, rather than the people behind those numbers, they miss everything that matters.

When context is applied, a person with a small, well connected social network may well be getting massively better results, than the “social media rock star” with thousands of people, who are distant and seldom connect with them.

The numbers are a vital part of business.  In fact, without knowing all the important numbers, you can not succeed.  This is why I believe we all need to set some time aside to learn what the message is, behind all the key numbers in our business, from the most obvious numbers; profits, turnover, cash flow etc, to the less obvious.

What are the key numbers for you?

Let’s work together and grow your business. To find out more click here!

Photo: Grenade

Win more clients with this 1 great idea

The next time someone asks you for a quote, remember to give them the full answer.  This means covering the following 2 areas:

  1. Tell them what your fee or price is.
  2. THEN tell them the value you bring.

Here’s why this matters

  • If you simply give them the first answer, they will see the cost of hiring you or buying from you.
  • If you give them the first and second answer, you are no longer a cost, but an investment.

For example, an accountant may decide to quote her fee to a prospective client, at which point the client looks at the fee and compares it to the other fees they have had quoted.  Alternatively, that accountant can quote her fee, and demonstrate how she saved a client 20k in 12 months.  Now, the accountant is showing the value of investing in her services specifically.  You’d be crazy not to hire her!

In short:  Never quote a fee, with a list of generic benefits.   Always show your prospective clients what they get in return for working with YOU.  This way, you become an investment and make it a lot easier for people to see your amazing value.

If you want more free help in getting your prices or fees right, read this post!

Let’s work together and grow your business. To find out more click here!

Photo: Ecastro

What everyone ought to know about special offers!

Do you provide special offers to people, as a way to encourage them to make a purchase?  If you do, here are some things you really need to know in order to get the best results possible and avoid some common mistakes!

special offers, special offerSpecial offers: Training the marketplace to wait

The first challenge with using special offers, is that if you get it wrong (and most small businesses I see do), you will be training the marketplace to wait, so they never pay the full retail on anything you offer.  Here is an example, from a former client of mine.

This guy runs a seminar business and he always used special offers as part of his seminar marketing strategy.  He used a newsletter for the marketing of his events and would start with an early-bird discount to encourage people to book early.  These super-eager people who booked early, would have booked at the regular price anyway, they didn’t need incentives, as I later proved.  Then, as the date of the seminar got closer, he always offered an x% “last minute” discount on the remaining places.

All he was actually doing, was training his best prospective clients to wait for his offers, before they booked.

Hardly anyone paid the actual price to attend one of his seminars, yet that fee was what all his planning was based on.  As a direct result, he was losing an incredible, unsustainable, 40% of the profits on every event he held!  By reviewing his marketing and goals, we were able to increase his profitability by over 260%, whilst offering some amazing deals – NONE of which required him lowering his seminar fees.  Booking numbers and fees increased.

Special offers: The big brand approach

When big companies use special offers, we see something very different from the way most small business owners use them.

Big brands mix the timings of their offers, so they are only available when they know from extensive research, that business slows down during a certain period.  They also develop their special offers, based on sound advice from their financial directors, accountants and marketing directors; so that a healthy profit is always part of the sale price.  They never lose.  Ever.

The discounts are usually only available for genuinely limited periods and often, only when the customer spends a certain fee (what we call a trigger fee) or buys in greater volume than usual.  These are carefully planned, strategic offers.

Special offers: The all year round “sale now on”

We have all seen companies, who always seem to have some kind of sale on.

This marketing strategy is actually quite different from the use of special offers.  The use of back-to-back “sale now on” messages, is typically used as a way to position a brand as a budget / value provider; because we learn to associate their brand with there being a “sale now on.”

This approach is widely used in the business to consumer market and is especially prevalent in the household goods, fast food and automotive industries.

Special offers: Make your offers work

Special offers should be used to increase your revenues and profits; not lower them.

Offering special offers is a skilled area of marketing and can sink a business, when used incorrectly.  This is because they can not only lower the value of each transaction, it can also reduce the number of transactions too; as people keep on holding out for your next deal and then find a better one elsewhere.  The net result can be fewer sales at lower profitability.

Here are some tips to help you get it right:

  • Genuinely special.  They need to have real world value.  Look to add something extra, rather than lower a price.  Increase the value by adding, not subtracting.
  • Scarce.  They are most effective when there is an element of scarcity.  Offers that are only available for a limited time or where there is a limited number, work best.
  • Targeted.  They need to be used to gain you sales you would not have made at your usual price.
  • Timed.  They need to be timed in such a way, that people are not expecting to see them on a set date.  Don’t train your marketplace to wait for the next offer.  This hurts cash flow, lowers profits and lowers sales volume.  That’s a lose, lose, lose!

I hope you found those ideas useful.  Special offers are a superb marketing tool, which can produce amazing results when used correctly.  Before you do your next; reader-only deal, early-bird discount, 2 for 1 offer or 20% off – Stop and think about what you want to achieve.

Let’s work together and grow your business. To find out more click here!

Image: Vector Portal

HTC customer service: My experience and maybe a lesson too?

As a very happy user of the stunning HTC Desire Android phone, I was wondering what my first experience of HTC customer service would be like, after I required their help a few days ago.  Sadly, it was poor.  However, I do believe there’s a powerful marketing lesson here, which is what I want to share with you.

htc customer serviceHTC customer service frustrations

I eventually found the answer I needed, after being given incorrect information by one of HTC’s customer service team, over a series of extremely frustrating messages that spanned 2 days.  I wasted hours of my time, needlessly.

However, anyone can have a bad day (or 2) and this could have been that I caught the particular customer service person at a bad time.  No, my real issue was with the over complicated process, which made a bad situation worse.

HTC customer service hurdles

For example, I had to dismantle the phone, to get a code, before they would allow me to submit a very simple, generic question.  They could have answered my question with just a model name.

Unbelievably, although they replied to my tech support questions via email, they did not allow me to reply to those emails via email!  Seriously!  Every time I needed to ask a question, it meant I had to leave the email program, visit a URL, enter a long series of numbers, enter my email address and then type my message out.

All that information was already on ALL the emails they sent me, so simply by replying, they would have had all the info they needed.

The impression I got, was that HTC didn’t want it to be easy for me to get in touch with them.  It felt that they were placing hurdles in front of me.  I may well be wrong and if I am, I welcome HTC to respond.  It could be that they are genuinely unaware what a total pain in the ass it is, to deal with their tech support in the current way.

Hopefully, if HTC monitor mentions of their brand, someone will see this and maybe mention it to someone who has the power to fix it.  Then, their customer service might match their amazing products.  Just to confirm, the phone itself is the best I have ever used. This may be why I was so disappointed at the horrible customer service experience I had, from start to finish.

If HTC contact me, I will of course let you know.

Here’s the thing: Until that poor customer service experience, I had been evangelically recommending their HTC Desire and Desire HD phones to everyone.

Today, I don’t!

I no longer recommend the brand, because I don’t want people to experience the same customer service frustrations that I encountered.

Word of mouth recommendations are incredibly powerful.  In the week I owned my HTC Desire, prior to this customer service incident, I helped them sell around a dozen HTC Desire phones, via my recommendations to friends and contacts.  Had I blogged about them, the way I did when Dell customer service exceeded my expectations, who knows how many of you would have considered buying an HTC phone when you next upgrade.

In fact, in 3 years this is only the 2nd time I have ever named a brand in a negative light!  As I showed with that Dell post, I always prefer to focus on the positive, yet the marketing message here is too important for me not to share the learning with you.

HTC customer service: The marketing lesson?

If you were ever in any doubt as to the strong connection between customer service and marketing, this example makes the point extremely well.  Just as your marketing promises need to be backed up with great products, they also need to be backed up with great customer service.  No matter how good our products or services are, we can turn passionate advocates away and send them packing to another provider or brand, if we let them down when it comes to the customer service experience.

My negative customer service experience, both with the person who was “looking after me” and their HTC tech support system itself, has seen me go from being a passionate advocate of great HTC hardware, to a frustrated user of HTC customer service.  To turn someone away like that makes no sense at all.

UPDATE: 28th December 2011

It’s now 8 months since I wrote this post and have still not had any reply from HTC.

It’s not my intention to turn this post into a place where people can slam HTC or their products. It was always intended simply to showcase an example of an amazing product let down by pretty poor online customer service procedures and offer suggestions on how it could be fixed. My issue was exclusively around the inability to reply to tech support emails, and have to go through a lot of hassle via a website, in order to reply.

As a result, I am closing comments on this and suggest future complaints are directed to HTC.

As HTC have taken no notice of this post whatsoever, it’s unlikely your problems will get an answer from them here.

Thanks to everyone who has contributed to the comments!

Let’s work together and grow your business. To find out more click here!

Photo: Ron Bennetts

Consider the source – ALWAYS consider the source!

Here’s a quick tip, which can help you avoid wasting your time and your money.  It’s based around just 3 words: Consider the source.

Consider the source

Much of the information out there, particularly business related information, is biased.  As a result, a lot of people have either bought something they don’t need or they are paying for a service they get little if any real value from.  They bought into a sales message, often because they didn’t consider the source or realise how biased it was.

It’s not a case of people deliberately misleading us, pretending their products or services are just what we need when they are not.  In many cases, probably most cases, people genuinely believe that what they are recommending to us is the answer to our problems.  The thing is, they are often wrong and if we act on their recommendations without considering the source, we pay the price.

Consider the source: The problem with hammers

Abraham Maslow said:

If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.

Maslow’s point, was that people who are incomplete in their knowledge of solutions, propose the same type of answer to every problem they encounter.  So, if they are a keen user of a marketing tool which works for them, they will often believe that it is an essential investment for everyone in business.

An extremely common example of this kind of hammer and nail thinking is the way email marketing software is marketed. Yes, email marketing software, such as auto-responders, do have their place and for some people, they can be great; but unless you consider the source, you’d think you needed it, when you might be far better off using something more akin to your needs.

For instance, I don’t use email marketing software or email auto-responder services and I don’t write an email newsletter – Yet I have a rapidly growing email subscriber list of thousands.  Marketing genius Seth Godin, no longer offers an email newsletter either!  Why?  Because he doesn’t need to and neither do I.

We blog regularly and get emails in front of prospective clients all the time, because (in my case) over 65% of my readers receive this blog via email.  I use a Mailchimp account, which allows me to deliver these blog posts, via email, to anyone who selects it; using that orange box on the top right of my blog.  If I have something I want to promote, I don’t need to send anyone marketing emails.  I simply share it here on the blog and it will arrive, at a set time, in thousands of inboxes.  It works REALLY well and helped me sell almost £130,000 in services and products last year.

I recommend email marketing to many of my clients and my point here is certainly not to bash it.  As some of you may know, I once wrote a very popular marketing newsletter, which was extremely successful.  I’m simply using the way email marketing software and services are marketed as an example.  The exact same point could have been made using; networking groups, newspaper and magazine advertising, mailing lists, blogging, pay-per-click and just about every other form of marketing.

So, before you decide to part with your hard earned money, or act on some free advice, always consider the source.  Is the person being paid to promote a certain marketing tool?  Are they knowledgeable enough about marketing, to be able to give you the right advice?

The bottom line: When you consider the source, you get a fer better insight as to the quality and accuracy of the information.

Photo: Pete Simon

How to improve all your marketing with this 1 great idea!

Enthusiasm is contagious.  It spreads like a virus, infecting everyone who comes into contact with it.  In today’s post, I’m going to share some ideas regarding how you can tap into the viral power of enthusiasm, to improve just about every area of your sales and marketing!

Enthusiasm, sales and referrals

One of the finest testimonials I ever heard, regarding the power of enthusiasm in sales, is this:

A successful sale always starts with the transfer of enthusiasm.

As a direct result, by speaking or writing with enthusiasm, we increase the sales potential of every commercial interaction we have.  Of course, this also breeds confidence and when people feel both enthusiastic and confident about us and our services, they not only buy from us; they also feel confident recommending us to their friends too. Think about it, when was the last time you recommended someone or something, which you had a bad feeling about?  Never, right?

Enthusiasm in business

Given the incredible power of enthusiasm, I find it mind blowing that the vast majority of business owners sound so pedestrian, when communicating with the written or spoken word.  For example, we get those marketing emails and letters, telling us; “I have some information you may be interested in regarding our new XYZ service.”  Instead of; “I have a great idea to share with you Bob, which will be of genuine value to you and your business!”  The latter message inspires confidence and is motivating, for former message does nothing.

Some people confuse enthusiasm with cockiness.  They think that by standing firmly behind your products or services, that you somehow sound pushy.  The reality could not be further form the truth.  The reality is that by sounding meek and pedestrian when we speak about our business, we do ourselves a huge disservice.  We show ourselves to be less than we are and our services to be less than they are too.  We give those who see our messages every reason to doubt us.  That’s an insane way to market anything!

The power of enthusiasm in your business

If you genuinely believe that your business offers great value or amazing service, SAY SO!  Spread your enthusiasm all over the marketplace.

Here’s a quick tip.  Review your marketing messages, online and offline, and check to see if you have pumped your enthusiasm and passion into your copy.  Ask yourself:

  • Will people read what you have written and feel inspired?
  • Will people hear your message and feel motivated to call you, email you or visit you?
  • Will they hear what you have to say and feel compelled to learn more about you, your business, products or services?

If not, that message is almost certainly massively under performing.  Either rewrite these messages yourself or (recommended) find a copywriter who can put into words, the passion you feel for your business and your complete confidence in your products or services.

Photo: Kodomut